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Cultural Healers Workshop

Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering focused on Culture First

Participants at last week’s fourth Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering (SEWB 4) in Larrakia Country (Darwin), focused on the importance of ‘Culture First’ and particularly its importance to healing.

Speakers included Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney and some of Australia’s leading human rights advocates such as Professor Tom Calma and Thomas Mayo. The University of Western Australia’s Professor Helen Milroy, psychiatrist, and Professor Pat Dudgeon, psychologist, were also key speakers.

In her opening address, Minister Burney stressed the historic and important opportunities for shared decision making, and for establishing a voice and meaningful representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Participants from government, non-government organisations, academia, and consumer advocates shared their perspectives on culture and what it meant to them, including tradition, ancestors, language, dance, food and connection to Country.

Feedback also mentioned that culture was diverse and that while cultural problems required cultural solutions, there was no ‘one size fits all’.

“Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing are often not recognised, and for First Nations workers lived experience and deep cultural and community knowledge are marginalised,” one respondent said.

Participants shared that formal qualifications weren’t the only things that counted towards best practice in supporting communities, and that across organisations, culture needed to be a foundation that created culturally safe and responsive workplaces and practices.

Collectively, the long-term benefits of a successful referendum of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament were seen as moving towards closing the gap and better outcomes for First Nations people and communities; an opportunity to be recognised, to have a say, and to be heard.

It would also lead to accountability of governments and better, more informed decision making but most importantly it would enable healing for elders, and for the younger generation to be empowered to lead the way forward.

The event was co-hosted by Transforming Indigenous Mental Health & Wellbeing, The University of Western Australia, The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Gayaa Dhuwi, and The Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA).


If you or someone you know needs help or support, you can contact your local Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation or

  • 13YARN: 13 92 76
  • Lifeline: 131 114
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Mensline: 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyondblue 1300 22 46 36
  • Q Life 1800 18 45 27
  • Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling 1800 01 10 46
  • The National Indigenous Critical Response Service 1800 80 58 01
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